Culinary archeologists are at a loss when it comes to pinpointing the origin of the ubiquitous onion. The best guess is they were first cultivated in the Mediterranean about 5,000 years ago. The Bible refers to three types of onions (alliums): leeks, garlic and bulbous onions of the type we know today.
On the North Coast onions are generally grown on muckland, a type of peat-like soil, rich in organic matter that holds water well and allows the onion bulbs to expand.
Muckland is centuries old, former wetlands, high in decomposing matter laden with nutrients. Muck soils are very productive but also very expensive for farmers to maintain. Once allowed to dry out, the soil can be carried off by erosion or wind and it can never be replaced.
In Elba, NY south of Batavia in Genesee County some of the finest onions in the nation are grown. They are generally of the pungent Yellow Globe variety, renown for both their spicy flavor and superb storage characteristics.
On the North Coast onions are an important crop, valued at between $50-$75 million a year, ranking it 7th in the nation with about 353 million pounds.
Elba Onion Frittata
1 Tbs butter
1Tbs olive oil
3 medium Elba onions, sliced
¾ cup cream, half-and-half, or milk
fresh cracked pepper to taste
½ cup grated cheese aged cheddar, Gruyere, or Swiss
¼ Tbs dried thyme or 1 Tbs. Fresh
1.Place butter and oil in pan, sauté onions slowly until golden, brown and soft.
2.Whisk eggs, cream and pepper to combine, pour over onions, sprinkle with cheese and thyme.
3. Cook eggs 5-6 minutes until almost set, then place under broiler to finish the top.
4. Cut into wedges and serve with hot buttered toast, home fries, and/or warm applesauce.